Monday, September 10, 2012

Um, on second thought...

After local South African prosecutors made the decision to charge striking mineworkers with murder under an old apartheid-era law, the shit began to hit the fan. Questions were asked about why the state had not charged any of the police officers who actually shot the striking miners with murder.

I would imagine that part of that answer can be found in the fact that the striking miners were from a "militant" union not affiliated with the "approved" union. What better way to protect a friendly union than to imprison the members of the competing union.

While South African President Jacob Zuma decided not to dirty his hands with the matter, the national director of prosecutors, Nomgcobo Jiba, was left holding the bag for the government. Of course one must wonder in such a high-profile matter how local prosecutors were allowed to have some 270 miners arrested on murder charges without someone from Pretoria having at least a little say in the matter.

In a bid to save face, the government finally decided to drop the charges (provisionally) and release the imprisoned miners.

Now, over a week later, all of the imprisoned miners have been released. But now the government has to rely on the miners to cooperate with an official investigation into what happened at the mine. The union has promised to conduct its own investigation.

The law in question was used to imprison demonstrators whenever violence ensued - usually at the hand of government troops. That way, whenever soldiers fired into a crowd, they could grab any demonstrator at hand and charge them with the murder of their fellow demonstrator. The law was a tool of oppression.

And that's exactly what happened at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. The law was used by the government to quash a budding union movement that didn't place compromise as its ultimate goal.

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